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Living Through a Battle

What is it like to be involved in a war?

by Kathy Lee

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To look at Roman times to help us consider what it would be like to live through a war.

Preparation and materials


  1. At the moment, Britain is relatively peaceful. However, over the years, it has experienced many wars and battles. Ask the children the following question.

    - What are some of the wars that have happened in Britain?

    Answers may include the First and Second World Wars.

  2. The following extract is taken from A Captive in Rome, a book by Kathy Lee. (This is available for purchase at: It is about a young British boy called Bryn, who is ten years old, so he is too young to fight in the battle. Bryn is watching a battle between the invading Roman army and his own people, the Celts.

    The Roman soldiers lined up in rows near the top of the hill. The front line of soldiers lifted their shields to form a wall, and the rows behind held their shields above their heads like a roof. All you could see was a long line of shields and spears.

    Show the image of the Roman testudo formation.

    It looked frightening. But we had ten times more fighters than the Romans had. How could we possibly lose the battle?

    When our queen’s chariot turned towards the enemy, a wild shout went up, and all our warriors surged forward, eager for the glory of the fight. In the lead were the chariots. Then came the great mass of swordsmen on foot. I would have given anything to join them. I didn’t have a sword, just my knife. But that was sharp enough to slit open a fish . . . or a Roman.

    Our chariots had almost reached the Roman lines when their trumpet sounded. Hundreds of spears came hurtling out from behind the shield wall. At that range, they couldn’t miss. Horses screamed and reared up; drivers fell wounded; chariots collided at speed. I could hardly bear to look.

    Show the images of the chariots and horsemen.

    But now our swordsmen threw themselves against the Roman shields, like a great wave thundering against a rock. Here and there, the Roman line appeared to break. Not for long, though. Men from the rows behind stepped forward to fill the gaps.

    ‘The Romans are good fighters,’ my sister said nervously.

    Yes, but we have a far bigger army,’ I told her. We’ll wear them down in the end.’

    The trouble was, the Roman leader had chosen the battlefield carefully. Because of the thick forests on either side, our army could only attack from in front, up the hill. Half our men couldn’t even get near the enemy.

    Terrible sounds filled the air. Swords clashing, drums rattling, war horns blowing – those were the noises I’d expected to hear, but they were drowned by the cries of wounded men. People fell and were trampled underfoot. Horses screamed in agony.

    Where was Father? And my big brother? I couldn’t see them . . .

    Once more, the trumpet sounded – and Roman horsemen came charging out of the woods to right and left. They took our army completely by surprise. Now our men had to fight on three sides. Slowly, they gave ground, and the battle began to move downhill towards our camp.

    How could this be happening? We were being herded like sheep!

    Show the image of fighting.

    Our men at the front were still fighting fiercely, but they couldn’t hold back that steady, merciless advance. At the rear, people were being crushed in the crowd. I was knocked to the ground, under the trampling feet of an army on the run.

    Two or three times I tried to get up, struggling and shouting. Each time, I was knocked down again.

    Then something must have hit me on the head, for everything went black. That’s all I remember.

    (From A Captive in Rome, Book 1 of the Tales of Rome series by Kathy Lee)

  3. Ask the children the following questions, listening to a range of responses as appropriate.

    - How would you have felt if you were Bryn?
    - How did you feel at the start of the story, when Bryn’s tribe attacked the Romans?
    Who did you think would win the battle?
    How did you feel later on, when things started to go wrong?
    What would you do? Would you stay to watch, try to join in or run away?

  4. Unfortunately, wars are not just things that happened a long time ago. Ask the children the following question.

    - Where in the world are battles taking place nowadays?

    We often see wars on the television. Sometimes, whole cities are destroyed, people are wounded and killed, children are left alone and families who have lost everything run away from their homes in the hope that they can stay safe.

    Show the images of ruined towns and people displaced by wars.

Time for reflection

Ask the following questions. You may wish to ask the children to close their eyes while they think about their responses.

- How do you think you would feel if it were your town that had been attacked?
- How do you think you would feel if your house had been destroyed?
- How do you think you would feel if your family had been injured or you had to run away from your home?

Listen to a range of responses.

Unfortunately, there are many people in the world today for whom this is a reality.

So what can we do to help people whose lives have been ruined by war? There are many charities that collect clothes and other essentials to distribute to people who have been affected by wars. There are many charities that collect money to help people who have left their homes and have had to leave all their possessions behind.

You may wish to use this assembly to introduce a charity event aimed at raising money for people in war-torn areas of the world.

Sometimes, it is difficult to imagine that people who live in areas of war are just like us. They laugh and cry, get married and have children. They may live a long way away, but we can remember them and pray that peace will come.

Dear God,
We feel sad when we hear of so much pain and suffering in war-torn places.
We pray that the fighting will end.
We pray that people will lay down their weapons.
We pray that families can find safe places to live.
We pray that peace will come.


The prayer of St Francis (Make me a channel of your peace) (Come and Praise, 147)

Publication date: July 2016   (Vol.18 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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